John Steinbeck, contender for "Greatest Author In American History," was awarded the U.S. Medal of Freedom today in 1964. It was not his first accolade. Two years prior, he was awarded the Nobel Prize. The Grapes of Wrath also earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Steinbeck's work was informed by his experiences as a journalist and hard laborer. His early writing was not popular, but with Tortilla Flat, his first novel, he found exposure to a broader reading public.
In Dubious Battle and Of Mice and Men were to follow, and after them, The Grapes of Wrath in 1938. Grapes of Wrath is considered one of the finest novels ever written, and many hold it up as the single best novel by an American author.
Steinbeck is also known for his books East of Eden, Cannery Row and The Pearl. He also produced many lesser-known works, such as the autobiographical books The Sea of Cortez and Travels with Charlie.
He passed away in 1968, at age 66.
He is remembered as a great author, whose work conveyed a profound depth of empathy for human suffering. If you haven't read him since high school, he's worth the time.